Top 10 Boating Holiday Destinations in the UK
We recently ran a survey to all BoatsandOutboards users asking where their favourite place in UK to escape to by boat was. We had a fantastic response and as a result, we have been able to map out and produce guides to the top 10 boating holiday destinations in the UK. The UK’s favourite boating holiday destinations are:
1. The Broads - Read the guide
2. River Thames - Read the guide
3. Cornwall - Read the guide
4. Solent - Read the guideReturn to top 10
5. Lake District - Guide coming soon
6. Isle of Wight - Guide coming soon
7. Caledonian Canal - Guide coming soon
8. Devon - Guide coming soon
9. Kennet and Avon Canal - Guide coming soon
10. Poole - Guide coming soon
The Broads were voted the top boating destination in the UK by BoatsandOutboards users.
Formed by the flooding of peat workings, The Broads are a network of rivers and lakes running through the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, to the east of Norwich in East Anglia. The Broads cover 303 square kilometres and boast 125 miles of loch-free waterways. The wetland spans from Beccles in the south, through to Dilham in the north and stretching to the coast at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
The majority of the Broads’ waterways are navigable, making it one of the UK’s most visited destinations for boating, whether it be sailing, motorboating or canoeing. Although 2 thirds of the Broads lie in the boundaries of Norfolk, the entire Broads are often mistakenly referred to as the Norfolk Broads, rather than the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
The Broads have been a popular boating destination since the late 1800s as railways made it possible for Londoners to reach Norfolk and sail on the Broads. Nowadays, millions of people visit The Broads every year, exploring by land or water, or a combination of both. As a result, The Broads are known internationally as a classic British holiday destination for its unique landscape and famous waterside pubs and restaurants.
With a variety of mooring locations along the entire length of the waterways, visitors can easily stop off to enjoy fishing, bird watching, walking, cycling. These mooring spots range from Broads authority maintained 24 hour moorings to private official moorings and boat yards.
Dotted along the Broads’ 125 miles of loch-free waterways are a variety of picturesque villages and towns. Wroxham is often considered to be the capital of The Broads. As a lively and popular town, many people begin their boating journey here, as there are many places to hire boats. Its twin village of Hoveton on the other side of the river, is where many local businesses and boatyards are situated.
Other popular destinations include:
Horning - Famous for its waterside pubs, shops, restaurants and tea-rooms, this waterside broadland village offers the unique charm of cruising along the river and stopping off to enjoy the sites.
Woodbastwick - Twice winner of the UK’s Best Kept Village Award, this quaint and tranquil haven is a perfect escape from the busier towns in the area.
Potter Heigham - Known for its medieval bridge, notoriously hard to navigate through, this popular village is also ideal for hiring a boat from.
Ranworth - This village’s St Helen's Church is known as the 'Cathedral of the Broads', offering an exceptional view of surrounding areas from the peak of its tower.
Stalham - Home to the Museum of the Broads, this market town also features a number of popular restaurants.
Acle - The Acle Bridge is a popular spot to moor, allowing visitors the chance to explore its 17th and 18th century buildings and riverside pubs.
The River Thames was voted the second top boating destination in the UK by BoatsandOutboards users.
From its source in the Cotswolds, right down the city of London and beyond, the River Thames has been at the heart of English life since the twelfth century. Stretching over 200 miles, the Thames flows through picturesque historic countryside and England’s iconic metropolitan capital city. As a result, the riverside is dotted with castles, country houses, abbeys, water mills, villages and inns, each with centuries of history.
Once one of England’s principal transport routes, the river is now as clean as it has ever, allowing wildlife to flourish. Recreational boating including rowing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing can be done all along the river. As a result, there are numerous places to hire boats, whether it is for a few hours, a day or much longer. This flexibility that the river allows can accommodate trips of all kinds. Off the water, the Thames Path offers the longest riverside walk in Europe and a range of waterside restaurants can provide a range of unique dining experiences.
The Tidal Thames is the popular navigable section of the river that stretches from the mouth of the Thames in the South East of England through to Teddington in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in south west London. This stretch of the Thames is one of the busiest waterways for both recreational and commercial boaters. As a result, a safe trip demands a marine band VHF radio licence and a solid experience of boating in order to navigate through the traffic and manage the tidal stream, including the resultant currents and variable depths.
The non-tidal section of the Thames flows from Teddington right through to Oxford and Lechlade, offering an entirely different landscape to explore, at a pace more suited to less experienced boaters or holiday goers looking for a more rural trip. This section on the river is extremely popular for the easily accessible attractions that the likes of Oxford, Abingdon, Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Marlow and Windsor all offer.
Popular destinations include:
Oxford - With an alumni including Stephen Hawking, C S Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde and a number of former British Prime Ministers the city’s world famous university is a popular tourist destination. Other popular attractions within the city include its numerous parks and historical landmarks.
Henley on Thames - The famous Henley Royal Regatta draws an international crowd to watch some of the world’s best rowing teams compete for the prestigious prize. The town is also popular all year round for its riverside restaurants, quirky shops and rural surroundings.
Windsor Castle - Overlooking the River Thames in the county of Berkshire, the world’s oldest and largest occupied castle draws huge crowds all year round hoping to catch a glimpse of the Queen in her official residence.
Hampton Court Palace - With Henry VIII as one of its previous residents, this Tudor Palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames has a rich royal history and stunning grounds open to the public.
Cornwall was voted the third top boating destination in the UK by BoatsandOutboards users.
Located in the south west of England, the county of Cornwall is a peninsula bordered by the Celtic Sea in the north and west, by the English Channel in the south, and east. Its unique and dramatic coastline features over 400 beaches, making it one of the most popular destinations in the UK for boating enthusiasts and holiday-makers alike.
Surrounded by water, Cornwall offers a wide range of water-based activities for people of all ages and abilities. With a coast lined with fishing villages and harbour towns, a boat is one of the best ways to explore the landscape. The county is famous for its golden sandy beaches, fascinating smuggling history, breathtaking coastal walks, quaint pubs and renowned restaurants. Although the entire coastline of Cornwall is popular particularly in the summer months, its landscapes differ considerably in the north coast to the south coast and west.
Generally speaking, the south coast of cornwall is much gentler than the ‘wild north’. With a rich smuggling heritage, its coastline is dotted with hidden creeks frequented by boaters in search of a remote spot to relax for the day. A long and interesting stretch of seaside towns and villages offer quiet sheltered coastal walks, beautiful estuaries and a variety of National Trust properties to explore. The Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan also are hugely popular tourist attractions further inland and the world famous sailing mecca of Falmouth offers some of the best sailing spots in the UK. The most popular locations in the South include Charlestown, Falmouth, Fowey, Looe, Lostwithiel, Mevagissey, Penryn, Polperro, Rame, St. Austell, St. Mawes, The Roseland and Truro.
Compared to the rest of Cornwall, the northern coastline is far more rugged and is exposed to Atlantic swell and wind, giving the area a completely different look and feel. As a result, the north is popular for surfing and a wide range of watersports. Out of the water, beautiful beaches, long walking paths and fishing villages line the coast. The most popular locations in the North include Boscastle, Bude, Camelford, Crackington Haven, Mawgan Porth, Newquay, Padstow, Perranporth, Polzeath, Port Isaac, Rock, St. Agnes, Tintagel, Wadebridge and Watergate Bay.
With an ancient heritage, West Cornwall is home to England’s most westerly point at Land’s End and most southerly point at Lizard Point. A number of stone circles and Iron Age villages, historic mining settlements and striking landscapes reveals a compelling insight into Cornwall’s past. On the water, the west is home to numerous popular surf spots and harbour towns offering regular boat trips. The most popular locations in the West include Camborne, Hayle, Helston, Land’s End, Marazion, Mousehole, Mullion, Porthleven, Penzance, Redruth, St. Ives, Sennen and The Lizard.
The Solent was voted the fourth top boating destination in the UK by BoatsandOutboards users.
20 miles in length and varying from one to four miles wide, The Solent is a strait separating the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. The Solent is the busiest area for sailing in the UK and offers ideal conditions for water-based activities including sailing, diving, swimming, sea-kayaking, kite-surfing, angling, windsurfing, jet-skiing and rowing. The area also provides a wide range of inland activities which attract holidaymakers of all ages from across the UK.
The Solent was originally a valley in which the Solent River ran through, but over the last 15,000 years the body of water has expanded to the size it is today. Due to its unique formation, the definitive area of the Solent is often disputed. However, the harbours of Portsmouth, Langstone, Chichester, and Southampton Water are often described to be located on the Solent, albeit unofficially.
Portsmouth is one of the most popular destinations on the Solent. Home to almost two-thirds of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, ships including the HMS Ark Royal, Illustrious, Invincible and Victory give the area a rich historical appeal.
The Spinnaker Tower is another popular tourist attraction in Portsmouth. At 170m-high, the landmark offers incredible views of the Solent and the vessels beneath. Also visible from the tower is the hugely popular Southsea beach stretching from Old Portsmouth to Eastney. The city of Portsmouth is home to esteemed fish restaurants and around 160 public houses and beer bars, many of which can be found on Gunwharf Quays, a bustling area for nightlife.
With a vast waterfront, Gosport lies on a peninsula on the western side of Portsmouth Harbour. As a result, it is a popular destination for sailors, windsurfers and tourists looking to navigate between the visit both areas. On the land, a wide range of restaurants, pubs, shops and maritime themed museums make for an ideal holiday destination for families.
In September every year, boating enthusiasts from around the UK and further afield flock to Mayflower Park for the Southampton Boat Show. As the largest city on the south coast of England, all year round, Southampton remains a popular destination for sailing, water sports and on-the-water wildlife-spotting.
In the 19th century, Southampton established itself as the major port for liners on the Atlantic route. The city therefore has one of the strongest maritime histories in the UK. Following WW2, a lot of the city had to be rebuilt. As a result, Southampton is both a modern and traditional, offering an interesting mix of attractions for tourists.
Isle of Wight
Over the water, the Isle of Wight offers another great base to enjoy the water from. The island is accessible by car via Britain's only surviving passenger hovercraft service or a car-ferry from near Gun Wharf. A number of award winning beaches make for a quieter and more relaxing holiday destination than many locations on the English coast.
Home to the world famous Cowes Week, an international sailing regatta in the first week of August, East and West Cowes is separated by the River Medina. West Cowes was established by Henry VIII as a defence against potential attacks from France. Home to the Royal Yacht Squadron, West Cowes has grown since the Tudor era as a popular yachting destination.
Other popular destinations on the Isle Wight for boating enthusiasts include Yarmouth and Lymington, both offering historic pubs and restaurants with prime spots to view boats gathering in the water.
Other popular locations for water-based activities on The Solent include Bembridge, Yarmouth Harbour, Lymington, Beaulieu River, Wootton Creek, Newtown River, Ashlett Creek, Hamble River and Keyhaven. Also, popular beaches to explore can be found at Priory Bay, Colwell Bay, Alum Bay, Scrathells Bay, Luccombe Bay and Freshwater Bay.